Will’s phone vibrates under his shoulder. Pulling it out, he glances at the notification: Oriane has posted a video on his profile. Next to him, a young woman turns on her side. He hopes that she’ll wake while he’s in the shower and slip away quietly.
He glances at his watch and frowns; it’s not like Oriane to contact him first. It’s something he’s complained about but these complaints have limited effect. Though she is always prompt with her replies she once said that it is rude not to text back quickly, so it’s not out of any particular favouritism towards him.
‘Morning.’ The girl smiles at him; she has a modelish face but thin lips. He began noticing lips after Oriane told him that he had full ‘kissy lips’ and that she loved kissy lips. Her lips felt good against his the few times he kissed them. Was that why Oriane liked kissy lips, because she had them herself?
‘Some night, eh?’ Will replies. The girl leans over and kisses him. She has bad breath – even pretty girls get bad breath after sleeping drunk. They fool around; he feels her thin lips and he wonders how long it’ll be until she decides to go. He doesn’t want to hurt her feelings but Oriane is coming to Dublin and he wants to shower and clean the house so it’s like last night didn’t happen. Yet he’s polite; he slips his head down under the covers so she won’t think him rude.
They don’t go all the way. His mind is distracted. She showers and he pours her a glass of blueberry smoothie. He thinks about making coffee but that would only delay her longer. They swap numbers before she leaves.
The house is silent and he feels he can, with a few simple steps, be himself again. He turns on his laptop, thinking about Oriane. She told him she’ll stay with Sebastian at John’s house, though she could change her mind as the evening progresses. She has before. Or he might stay on John’s couch beside her. Not that they’d have sex, because John is particular about his apartment and its furnishings. There’d be no ‘high-five’ in the morning at the sight of a used condom stuck to the sitting room floor.
The video on his wall loads. A girl appears out of a Parisian metro station. She’s coy, apologetic.
‘I’m so sorry, have you been waiting long? Je suis désolée…’
Scenes of Parisian girls, semi-clad, smoking, thin but eating red meat, are cut between images of Parisian boulevards at night. They look like Oriane – no make-up, skinny jeans, wavy hair and red lips – though these girls seem slightly dirty, their foreheads shiny. Oriane never looks dirty. Wherever she stays, she always brings her hairdryer.
It’s an odd video. He does not think the Parisian nightclub is any edgier than his usual Dublin haunts, just because the males have quiffs and wear skinny jeans while the girls are pale-skinned, smoking and complaining about loud Americans. The girls who are dancing look good, though with a sexiness that seems slightly off to him; Will imagines that hidden beneath their pseudo-distressed clothes there’s unshaven hair.
He wonders why Oriane has posted the video. It only makes her seem more alien to him, a creature he’ll never understand, not to mention possess. Of course, she’d have a quote to describe this detachment, which would transform her annoying distance into something ultimately attractive. She might even cite Proust. Her best friend (‘the husband’, as she says) Sebastian read In Search of Lost Time and filled her head with rubbish. Will wonders what was wrong with two people simply falling in love and getting on with it, doing normal things like having kids and getting the nicest house within their reach.
The problem is that Sebastian thinks too well of Oriane; Will suspects it’s the reason why she was dissatisfied with him. After all, gay men either vilify or worship the women around them, and Will has witnessed Sebastian telling Oriane how special she is. This will be fatal in the long run. She could end up with nothing when Will and all of the other admirers have moved on.
But they haven’t moved on yet and this is a more worrying thought. Perhaps Oriane will have her admirers all the way to the end. And he’ll be one of them because it is near impossible to get over a girl who won’t love him in return.
(Some Sort of Beauty will be published by Bradshaw Books in spring 2012)